Zimbabwe state newspaper predicts runoff
From news services
The main opposition party claimed outright victory today for its leader Morgan Tsvangirai, saying he had won 50.3 percent of the vote compared to 43.8 percent for President Robert Mugabe.
The ruling ZANU-PF party rejected the opposition’s claims, saying that it would await the full results from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which has not yet published the outcome of Saturday’s presidential poll.
The state Herald newspaper, meanwhile, predicted a runoff in the first official admission that Zimbabwe’s autocratic leader of 28 years has failed to win re-election. A presidential candidate needs at least 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a runoff.
However, Movement for Democratic Change general secretary Tendai Biti said there was no need.
"We maintain that we have won the presidential election outright without the need for a run-off," Biti told a news conference.
Deputy Information Minister, Bright Matonga, said the opposition party was being "irresponsible" and "mischevious."
"They have got to be very careful with their activities," Matonga told the British Broadcasting Corp. "They think they can provoke ZANU-PF, and the police and the army."
The government had previously warned that premature announcement of election results by the Movement for Democratic Change would be tantamount to a coup attempt.
In campaigning, 84-year-old Mugabe had likened the elections to a boxing match, with his party winning in a knockout. Mugabe has been silent since the vote.
The commission has offered no results in the presidential race, saying Tuesday it still was receiving ballot boxes from the provinces. That raised questions about where those boxes have been since Saturday night, when some electoral officials slept on the ground to guard the votes.
Washington has indicated it believed the opposition had won. "It’s clear the people of Zimbabwe have voted for change," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
The European Union said it wants Mugabe to step down.
At independence, Mugabe was hailed for his policies of racial reconciliation and development that brought education and health to millions who had been denied those services under colonial rule. Zimbabwe’s economy thrived on exports of food, minerals and tobacco.
The unraveling began when Mugabe ordered the often-violent seizures of white-owned commercial farms turned over to blacks, mainly relatives, friends and cronies who allowed cultivated fields to be taken over by weeds.
Today, a third of the population depends on imported food handouts. Another third has fled the country and 80 percent is jobless. Inflation is the highest in the world at more than 100,000 percent and people suffer crippling shortages of food, water, electricity, fuel and medicine. Life expectancy has fallen from 60 to 35 years.